The value of
The value of the cosmological constant is an empirical issue which will ultimately be settled by observation; meanwhile, physicists would like to develop an understanding of why the energy density of the vacuum has this value, whether it is zero or not. There are many effects which contribute to the total vacuum energy,
including the potential energy of scalar fields and the energy in “vacuum fluctuations” as predicted by quantum mechanics, as well as any fundamental cosmological constant.
final possibility is that the vacuum energy is changing with time — a dynamical cosmological “constant”. This alternative, which is sometimes called “quintessence”, would also be compatible with a true vacuum energy which was ultimately zero, although it appears to require a certain amount of fine-tuning to make it work.
No matter which of these possibilities, if any, is true, the ramifications of an accelerating universe for fundamental physics would be truly profound.
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